The prospect of a new Rotherham United contract for in-form winger Joe Newell has moved a step closer after positive initial talks over a fresh deal.
The 24-year-old has been playing so well during the club’s 14-match unbeaten run that he has been nominated for the Sky Bet League One February Player of the Month award.
Manager Paul Warne revealed that the player’s agent has already spoken to Rotherham chief operating officer Paul Douglas and more discussions are planned.
“The meeting with the agent wasn’t a dead conversation where he threw water at the chief exec,” said Warne whose side go in search of their eighth straight win at home to Rochdale on Saturday. “It was the opposite. It was pretty amicable.
“Obviously, I’d like it to happen sooner rather than later. I think Newelly does enjoy it here. He’s been here for while and at the moment he’s playing the best football of his career. Why would he want to change?”
Even if an agreement can’t be reached, Newell, whose present deal expires in the summer, will still be at AESSEAL New York Stadium next season unless there is a big-money offer for him. There is a clause in his contract which allows Rotherham to extend his terms by a further 12 months.
“I’ve got an option on Newelly,” Warne confirmed. “I’d rather he signed a longer-term contract but it we can’t arrange something that suits both parties then I can just take out the option on him.
“Unless someone comes and buys him off me in the summer, he’ll be my player going forward.
“I’ve spoken to the player and explained the situation to him. I’m aware that if he keeps playing at the level that he is, then other people will come knocking, That’s just the nature of football.”
Newell has provided goals and assists during the Millers’ climb to fourth in the table, rewarding the decision of Warne - a contender for the February Manager of the Month prize - to give him an extended opportunity in the side.
“Newelly has always had the ability,” the boss said. “He needed a run. He’s now fitter and stronger than he’s ever been. The lads trust him with the ball in any position. The tighter opponents get to him, the better he is. His movement with the ball at his feet is excellent
“To be an outstanding player in this team you have to be really special because everyone is performing at a really high level. Newelly sticks his head above the parapet at the moment as the most impressive attacking player.”
Rochdale are at the foot of the division but Warne is warning they will be no pushovers after watching them dismantle Walsall 3-0 away from home in midweek.
“I don’t expect them to finish in the bottom four,” he said. “This could be our toughest test over the next five or six games.”
Midfield man Darren Potter is finally back in full training after an achilles injury sustained in December, while striker Jamie Proctor, out since August following cruciate surgery is nearing a return and did some shooting today.
“He’s looking good,” Warne grinned. “He had a 50 per cent success rate. Mind you, he only had two shots.”
Warne, who is is likely to keep faith with the 11 who started the 2-1 derby victory over Doncaster Rovers in the Millers’ last outing, saluted the character of a squad which hasn’t tasted defeat for more than three months.
“They’re just a really good group,” he said. “They’re all grounded. There are no bigheads. There’s no massive earner. They want to win every game.
“Collectively, they have got spirit, and they know that the staff believe in them 100 per cent and will back them. They go out feeling pretty formidable.”